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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How to Make a Volcanic Dinosaur Cake


Currently Our Little Man is a dino fanatic, and so of course he wanted a dinosaur cake for his birthday this year.

I like to make their cakes as 3-D as possible, so rather than having a flat cake shaped like a dinosaur, I was dreaming of ways to make a gigantic T-Rex head.  Parts of it seemed like fun - cut marshmallows for teeth, layered marshmallows and gumballs for eyes, cut fruit leather for stripes - but how to keep the head from falling over from the weight of the extended jaws?  That one had me stumped.


And so, since he also likes volcanoes, I went with a dinosaur scene.  This was MUCH simpler than scissor-like teeth would have been, and he was fascinated with the dinosaurs in different scenes throughout the cake.

The fact that the dinos were removeable and became playthings after eating the cake - well, after licking washing off the ganache didn't hurt.



So here's how to make your own Volcanic Dinosaur Cake:
  • You'll need two cakes - one cake in a 9X13" pan and another half cake in a small oven-safe bowl.  You'll want the cake to come 2/3 of the way up the bowl and for the bowl to be slightly wider at the rim than at the base.  I used a Betty Crocker peanut butter cake recipe for the flat cake and divided my Goofy Cake recipe in half for the bowl.
  • Mix each cake as directed.  Line the bottom of the flat pan with a piece of waxed paper.  Spray or butter well the bowl.  
  • Bake the cakes as directed until the center is springy.  For the Goofy Cake, this will take between 40 - 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
  • Let the cakes rest on a wire rack until just cool enough to handle, then remove carefully from the pans.  Chill.
  • Invert the flat cake onto a jelly roll pan to create a flat surface to work with.
  • Spread a thin layer of peanut butter onto the top of the cake.  This helped prevent the ganache from soaking into the cake.  (If you chill both the cake and the ganache completely, you won't have this problem, but I hurried a bit.  Ultimately, it ended up tasting like a Tasty Cake - yum!)
  • At the point where the bowl cake begins to dome - the part that baked on top - slice this dome off in one flat cut.
  • Mix one batch of cheesecake filling - recipe below - and one batch of thick chocolate ganache to use as glue for holding pieces together and for decorating the tops of the cakes.  Tint the cheesecake filling red for lava.
  • Put the cheesecake filling into a sandwich bag and cut off one corner about 1/3 of an inch from the end.  
  • Pipe some cheesecake filling onto one corner of the cake.  This will serve as glue to hold the "volcano" in place.
  • Put the bottom of the bowl cake upside down on top of the cheesecake filling.
  • Top with another squirt of cheesecake.
  • Top that with the piece you cut off.  This will give your volcano a higher, domed top.  Angle the sides, if necessary, to create the proper shape.  I also cut a small hole in the top of the dome to create the "hole" inside the volcano.
  • Pipe some cheesecake filling around the volcano's mouth and in rivulets running down the sides.  Use a knife to create 'flowing' patterns in the lava.
  • Add interest to the landscape.  Use marshmallows or other candies in various sizes and shapes as "boulders" strategically placed across your landscape.  If you want to add fossils, this is the time!  I planned to use pretzel sticks to create a dino skeleton under the mud, but I found fossil toys at the Dollar Tree, so I used one of those, instead.  If you look closely, you can see it in the lower left-hand corner of the cake.  My son was particularly excited about this feature.
  • The ganache should be chilled and slightly thickened by now.  It will pour well but thicken more in the refrigerator, so keep in mind that it will firm up and not run after you finish.  Begin to ladle the ganache over the volcano and landscape, being careful to avoid the lava-covered areas.  Ladle the ganache-mud over anything that you want to be earth-colored.
  • Chill your cake until serving time.
  • Add your toy dinosaurs.  Use their feet to make extra tracks across the top of the cake.  Don't forget to place some in fun places, like on the sides of the volcano and on your candy boulders!
  • Twisty candles make for explosive volcanoes!  Place a few in your cheesecake-lined "hole" and light for a fun, action-packed cake. 



Cheesecake Filling:
  • Mix 8 ounces of softened cream cheese with 1/4 c. of powdered sugar.  Tint as desired.
Chocolate "Mud" Ganache:
  • Put 1 c. of chocolate chips into a heat-safe bowl.
  • Heat 3/4 c. of heavy cream until hot - but not boiling - and then pour quickly over the chocolate.  
  • Whisk until smooth.
  • Let cool until room temperature - at least - before using on a cake.
**Both of these elements must be refrigerated!  If using these in a cake, be sure to plan how you will keep it chilled and safe.

Do you make your children's birthday cakes?  Do you do shapes or 3-D varieties?



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